Buried volcanic rock off New England, and stretching down through the populated coasts of
For years, scientists have been studying the idea of injecting CO2 emissions from power plants deep into the ground or ocean so the gas doesn’t enter the atmosphere. But the concept, now being experimented with, has been fraught with controversy in part over fears the gas could escape from its underground prison.
Basalt lies under land (hatched areas) and sea (grey areas) along the Northeast coast. Squares indicate possible targets for exploratory drilling.(David S. Goldberg/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory)
Basalt – the volcanic rock – may be an answer, Lamont-Doherty geophysicist David S. Goldberg says. Research by his team shows that carbon dioxide injected into basalt undergoes natural chemical reactions that eventually turn it into a solid mineral resembling chalk. That would help eliminate leaking dangers.
Basalt, formed about 200 million years ago, is common in the Northeast: Goldberg notes the cliffs of the Palisades along the west bank of the Hudson River near
"The coast makes sense," said Goldberg in a press release. "That’s where people are. That’s where power plants are needed. And by going offshore, you can reduce risks."
Storing carbon dioxide in land basalt is likely to come with problems such as disturbing drinking water sources or bothering neighbors in the crowded Northeast. Offshore storage, while likely more expensive, is far away from people comes with extra protection against leakage.
It is likely carbon dioxide will be injected into the ground as a pressurized liquid and it needs to be at least 2,500 feet below the surface for natural pressure to keep it from reverting to a gas and potentially seeping back into the atmosphere. While the basalt formations on land are shallow, sea based ones are deep and covered not only by a heavy layer of ocean water but hundreds or thousands of feet of sediment.
The study was done with Lamont-Doherty colleagues Dennis Kent, who is also at
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